Adrenocortical tumors and insulin resistance: What is the first step?

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The pathogenetic mechanisms underlying the onset of adrenocortical tumors (ACTs) are still largely unknown. Recently, more attention has been paid to the role of insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system on general tumor development and progression. Increased levels of insulin, IGF-1 and IGF-2 are associated with tumor cell growth and increased risk of cancer promotion and progression in patients with type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance and compensatory hyperinsulinemia may play a role in adrenal tumor growth through the activation of insulin and IGF-1 receptors. Interestingly, apparently non-functioning ACTs are often associated with a high prevalence of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. However, it is unclear if ACT develops from a primary insulin resistance and compensatory hyperinsulinemia or if insulin resistance is only secondary to the slight cortisol hypersecretion by ACT. The aim of this review is to summarize the current evidence regarding the relationship between hyperinsulinemia and adrenocortical tumors.

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